Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Bandslam

With his shaggy mop of hair, pasty complexion, and nonexistent chin, Bandslam star Gaelan Connell actually looks like a real high-school geek: it would take more than the removal of glasses and the letting down of hair to transform this ugly duckling into a swan. His appearance helps make the teen comedy Bandslam into even more of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for pop-culture geeks: Think of it as I Was A Teenage Pitchfork Hipster. What music snob wouldn’t want to buy into the beautiful, ridiculous fiction that extensive knowledge of music history makes scrawny boy-teens irresistible to cool, sexy, musically accomplished young women?

Connell stars as an angst-ridden teen who channels his adolescent neuroses into wry letters to fantasy pen pal David Bowie. After moving to a new neighborhood and a new school, Connell improbably winds up torn between two impossible dream girls from the Disney tween-idol factory: Twizzlers-loving wild child Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Michalka, a former head cheerleader disproportionately impressed by Connell’s treasure trove of pop-culture knowledge.


Like a less oppressively hip Juno, Bandslam captures the way young people too smart and pop-culture-savvy for their own good let the music and movies they love define them during adolescence’s crucible of humiliation and self-doubt. Throughout its first two acts, Bandslam is charming, sweet, and funny enough to merit inclusion in the upper echelon of teen comedies. Then comes a third act weighed down with arbitrary romantic conflicts, leaden melodrama, and a tiresome subplot involving Connell’s ne’er-do-well father, which should have best been left on the cutting-room floor. Given Connell’s music-snob sensibilities, it seems borderline insulting that during the climactic battle-of-the-bands conflict, he’d embrace the kind of Disney Channel schmaltz that Hudgens and Michalka perform. Graff’s simultaneously under- and overachieving teen comedy begins as the kind of quirky, offbeat material Connell’s character would champion, and ends as the kind of hokey, formulaic, pandering fare he’d mock.

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